Harry Potter!
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Sigourney Weaver
Her life and career before 1990.
by T.D. Maquiffee

. "Imaginary Heroes"

Somebody slipped Hollywood a dysfunctional family pill this year. Writers are writing stories about it and the studios are buying them. It's not exactly moving action pictures off the block but consider such parallel universes as "A Love Story for Bobby Long," "Around the Bend," and others that fit this mold.

This mold filler offers a meandering portrait of a family bunch rendered anemic by tragedy. True, there's reason to wander disconsolately and make no meaningful contact with those you live under the same roof with when grief takes its toll. The toll of this movie is that it depends on poignancy over drama.

The high point of which occurs early in the first act when golden boy Matt Travis (Kip Pardue), elder son, a winning swimmer with great potential, (the probable "hero" of the title) commits suicide, leaving the family to cope with the unexplainable. In this process, they each go their own way. Sandy (Sigourney Weaver), aka "Mom," takes to rediscovering her Age of Aquarius love for pot. Ben (Jeff Daniels), aka "Dad," turns into a despot at the dinner table, when he's around at all. Unbeknown to anyone, he's taken a leave from work and spends the better part of his days staring into space from a park bench.

His problem is what the movie revolves around. The suicide has revealed that the person he's lived for, to the exclusion of anyone else, was Matt. Matt gone, he's having a tough time understanding the vacuum he's left with. This absence of feeling value in anyone else around him is hurtful to Sandy, but affects younger son Tim (Emile Hirsch, "The Mudge Boy") most of all. He can't be Matt no matter what demands Dad makes or however much disappintment he expresses. Unfortunately, Tim is all he's got now to achieve satisfaction with and the $2,000 he's laid out for piano lessons doesn't seem to be paying off. Tim is not a replacement hero.

It's him we feel for as he copes not only with the loss of his older brother but the sinking idea that he was, in some way, responsible because he didn't intercede to head off Matt's very bad choice when it might have been possible. Tim doesn't think of himself as very attractive or accomplished and, though Sandy expresses her great love and attachment to him throughout, there's no positive enforcement coming from Dad. The lad has much to contend with and we see much of the family derangement through his troubled eyes. As for Matt's reasons for ending it all, we are left with a little guesswork.

The abiding estrangements make for a home with little warmth, and the resolution heat-up in the last act doesn't provide the BTU's to compensate. It's mostly a dull plate and a trying effort, though not without a bit of amusement here and there. Weaver's Mom as a regressed junkie too naive to avoid stepping into a trap of her own making is a high point and reveals the lady's canny take on the humor component of humanity. She would have been perfectly capable of pulling off a rip-roarer if a little more edginess were allowed to creep in.

The rest of the cast does capable work though it might have played better with someone other than Jeff Daniels to naturally provide his part a lighter sense of irony. (Dennis Miller comes to mind). Emile Hirsch is natural and unforced, making his central role one we can generate some interest in. The biggest problem, however, is with writer-director Daniel Harris' lassitude in providing much of it, requiring a degree of patience and a taste for the low-key. In other words, this is an entry for the art houses.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Sigourney Weaver and Emile Hirsch
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